Weird, Hidden Danger Shocks Americans – Fake Headlines Hide the Truth

See what I mean.  It takes a headline that strange, extreme, and inaccurate to get attention.  Americans are that hard to shock today.  Yet, we cannot resist gawking at car wrecks. We are drawn to tragedies, warnings, and tirades.  So how do “they” get to us?  Escalate hate, anger, and fear.

I grew up just outside the Washington D.C. “Loop” in Fairfax, Virginia.  Both parents were federal government employees, The Washington Post was our local newspaper.  The hyperbole, scandals, and intrigues of people on the “Mall,” on the “Hill,” and at “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” strike weaker chords with me than most; I do not believe in cataclysms.

The un-slakeable, ravenous, yawning, media maws chew, digest, and regurgitate fragments of information into “stunning,” “breaking,” “smoking gun,” headline entertainment; all the “news” they need, to feed the needs of myriad, mewling, business advertisers.  The electronic media cloned and mutated The Inquirer to fill the chasm.

The Internet and 24/7 television formats are still only decades old and evolving.  Advertisers are still feeling out what pays and does not pay; now they use the “shotgun,” or “grenade” approach to exposure on various media.  Eventually, they will refine their choices.

Some people still read newspapers, the original portable news.  Paper print space holds the attention of a slowly dwindling population, as electronic media grow towards universal dominance.

It seems the gladiators of news and power are tireless, relentless warriors, bent on victory and domination.  The ratio of opinion, analysis, and fortune-telling to factual reports seems to be 50 to 1.  The volume of “spin” constantly expands.

The news exposes Americans to more federal government every day this battle goes on; the president does this, the congress does that, the courts intervene.

The political maelstrom over a four-page memo from a congressional committee is the latest example of excess.  The media fed us scraps of amplified innuendo, interpretation, and speculation for weeks, raising the virtual tension of the Trump-war drama.  Now, dire warnings, threats, and predictions of calamity, revenge, and retribution.

Nothing sells better than the nemesis of anger and hate.

 

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Give & Receive Grace – Love Unfettered

Our first gift is life, our mothers “giving birth.”  Then, as helpless, tiny people, we do nothing but receive every day.  We do not even know what giving is, for years.

o-GERBER-BABY-570

Then a glimmer of sharing, (food with the dog, or toys with another baby), gives us the first clue that we are not the only person in the world.

How scary, we might lose what we have.  The idea of “yours,” and “mine,” “have,” and “not have” dawns on us.  Then we learn to hold and withhold from others for our own sake.  It is all about “me, myself, & I.”

Greed is natural, inborn, survival, fear instinct.  Most of us rise above these automatic emotions once we find abundance.  Some people find balance between “thee & me” based on what we really need and the gifts we can give.  Some people never get over it.  Those are grim misers without love, because they see everything, material, emotional, and spiritual as limited “possessions,” to own or lose; to hoard.

Love opens our hearts, and forgets about hoarding in exchange for fervent mutual giving of ourselves to others, with receiving, a byproduct.  The purest form of love is grace.  Grace is not an exchange, it is not earned, or deserved; it is generous, unreserved, unconditional, unlimited openness, acceptance, forgiveness, caring, and affection.  Grace is what we received as babies.  Can we generate grace as adults?  Not without a way to experience it.  Where can we do this?

turkey-bend-park-texas-rough-road-jg-thompson

The road from cherished baby to self-sufficient adult is fraught with naïve mistakes, unfortunate accidents, painful losses, unrequited love, disappointing lessons, potholes of betrayal, detours of deceit, and dead-end dreams.  How to navigate life’s path, with courage, endure the hardships, withstand the evil, grow strong, prosper, and still be able to love and receive love, to be gracious and receive grace, is the challenge.

Christians have a perfect example.

Grace-To-You-Header_article_image

 

Kim Jong-Un – China’s Tiger to Tame

Forgive, is the message of Christmas.  But do not forget.  The person who betrayed trust is still in that body.  Trust is a gift best reserved for those who deserve it. We reserve the word “disgrace” for a serious reason – it is the permanent loss of credibility and assumed morality; it is a revocation of the gift of grace.

In 2005 Doug Bandow resigned from the Cato Institute because he accepted bribes from Jack Abramoff.  He published articles in the Copley News Service, favoring Abramoff’s clients.  He served almost four years of a six-year, plea-agreement sentence.

My question:  why does anyone listen to him or publish his opinions?  Well, the Huffington Post raised their hand.

His recent HuffPost opinion article is about Korea.  After visiting Pyongyang in June, he says, “Washington sees North Korea as a security challenge. Yet the North threatens America only because the U.S. intervened in the conflict between the two Koreas. The case for defending now populous and prosperous South Korea expired long ago.”

What did they do to him while he was there?  Did they bribe him too?  Does he know Dennis Rodman?  Is he still an American?

He proposes more-of-the-same diplomacy.  From 1953 until today,  North Korean’s persistent, winning tactic has been to extract financial aid and other concessions from the West by making promises to be good or do better.  Once they have what they need, they break all the promises, ratchet up the oppression of their people, and take food out of the mouths of their children for money to develop rockets and nuclear weapons.  (I wonder if they would be willing to sell such things to terrorists?)

220px-Kim_Jong-Un_Photorealistic-Sketch

The whole mindset of engaging North Korea in diplomacy is ludicrous.  How many times will we settle for the same false promises to liberalize their iron-fisted culture, or scale back their military?  After six decades of this soft-headed, “gentle” approach, what do we have to show?  Rocket Man.  Doing more of what has not worked is insanity.

What do we have now?  Change.  China knows North Korea intimately.  They buy most of their exports.  They have people living and working there.  They are North Korea’s lifeblood.  As long the N. Koreans stay “in bounds” and do not unsettle the region, China sees them as proxy insulation between themselves & Western encroachment.  But the “buffer” has begun to attract rather than distract Western attention, and not in a good way.

China has finally broken ranks with the North Korean government.  They have more to lose than gain from world condemnation or another Korean War.  China knows that the U.S. cannot, and will not allow any kind of attack on itself or its allies.

Kim Jong-Un is no fool.  We Americans imagine a vast divide between North and South Korea.  Not so much.  Families still span both regions of the same peninsula.  The desire to reunite is strong and frustrated in a culture that reveres family to the point of sublimating the individual.

In a recent speech, Kim played on this underlying theme in a “we/us” versus “they/them” appeal, saying that, at last, with the nuclear shield he has created, Koreans are no longer under the thumbs of other cultures; that Koreans can stand on their own and join hands.  I know that sounds strange to us, but the connections are powerful and subtle.  The overture to discuss the Olympic Games is another tactic to get us back in the old game of you give, we take, while they crash forward with nukes and missiles.  Is this fooling anyone?  The South Koreans are all smiles.

The biggest challenge Kim faces is China.  Kim and his predecessors have skillfully played the Chinese desire for stable unity in Asian and the threat that millions of North Koreans would flood across the extended border with China.  Pressure at the borders is building.  The number of attempted defections/escapes across the DMZ is amplified, while similar attempts to get into China and Russia are not reported at all.

Almost all North Korean defectors head to China before making their way to South Korea to avoid the heavily militarized border separating the two Koreas.  The Chinese accept this conduit role, as long as the escapees do not stay in China. (Like Mexico, giving Central American migrants and refugees a free pass through Mexico to the U.S.)

China has quietly added military resources along the most likely escape routes from North Korea.  Russia has a small, but similar border vulnerability, and has built up its military presence across the border.

The US current stance is likely to spur the Chinese to tone down or neutralize Kim Jong-Un to achieve their ultimate goal: stability.  Appearances are key.  No one wants their fingerprints on this effort.  Deniability is the standard by which all will be judged.

I am confident that China, South Korea, the U.S., and Japan are engaged in every type of discussions and plans they can imagine.  The main obstacle to resolution is “face.”  All parties need to preserve and improve their “face” at home and in the world.  How to tame or replace Kim Jong-un is a top priority for some of the world’s most powerful governments.  I have faith that Chinese ingenuity and American courage will combine to defuse threats to peace in the region.

(Discussion of Face: https://wp.me/p1qZOe-C7)

Is it Important to Know the Sources of Truth? – Henry David Thoreau, Yes and Know

quotes

Maybe it has always been this way, but why does it seem so vital to associate an insightful aphorism with a famous person?

“Truth strikes us from behind, and in the dark, as well as from before and in broad day-light.”

Who wrote this? Henry David Thoreau.  Beautiful in its truth and simplicity.  But what if some insignificant playwright put these words on Thoreau’s lips in his play?  Would it be less insightful?

There is a plague of mis-quotations, mis-attributions, and quotation mills, (e.g. brainyquotes.com) who do nothing to verify what people add to their sites.  I see these un-researched and inaccurate quotes used by people of incredible ability because the Internet makes it easy to be wrong and believe you are right.

When I first started seeing these “quotes.” and discovered how few were accurate, I spent months trying to raise the alarm about quotes attributed to Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and other notable historic figures.  Even after blazing the trail to truth, people shrugged and continued their reliance on provably unreliable websites.

One personal experience, before the current craze, happened to me in Colorado, while I was on a month-long “Chautauqua” through the Rocky Mountains.  A friendly lady gave me a bookmarker with a quotation from Henry David Thoreau.  “Many men fish all their lives without ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.”  Very touching and insightful, but a misquote by a writer, Michael Baughman, who wrote it in his book A River Seen Right (Lyons Press, 1995) p. 156.

He apparently paraphrased something Thoreau wrote in his journal, January 26, 1853:

“It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course, it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game, which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay so much stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught.”

I wonder, if today, this aphorism captures our current, self-absorbed culture?  Maybe today, the “fishing” is taking “selfies” and exposing every aspect of people’s experience and perspective on the Internet.  They get noticed but not notorious, or famous, or even infamous.  They become suicidal when virtual phantoms express disdain and scorn.

Everybody seems to be fishing for something, but what do they really want and why?

What they may really want is proof, and acknowledgment that they exist and have a value, and a meaning.  Why do they want it?  Maybe the disintegration of family, neighborhood, community leaves a void they cannot fill.  Maybe this secular dissociation leaves people feeling empty, afraid, and alone.

Could it be that what they really want is what families and churches used to provide:  love and belonging?

The March? -Fog of Vague Purposes

Remember “Occupy Wall Street?” More currently, “Black Lives Matter?”  And the latest example, “Women’s March?”  They have this much in common:

  • Loose Organization
  • Diverse Membership
  • Aggregate Complaints
  • Unfocused Intentions
  • Non-Specific Proposals
  • Outdoor Meetings
  • Catchy Names

“Occupy Wall Street” was pretty much just news items about their encampment.  “Black Lives Matter” fails to note that Federal statistics show that 80-90% of murdered “black lives that matter” are victims of black killers.  Half of all murder victims, nationally, are black; blacks are less than 15% of the population.  Where is that protest and call to action?

In the context of this protest, do they mean “Black, Mexican, Muslim, LGBTQ, Women’s Lives Matter?”  Or do they mean “Black, Young, Men’s Lives Matter,” but this just happens to be a women’s march?  Just what do they mean?

It seems that the “Women’s March” was all about disappointment, fear, and frustration transformed into pink anger.  Disappointment that Hillary did not win, fear that women’s rights will be undermined, and frustration that women do not receive equal pay.

Trump became the effigy to blame for everything.

Misogyny:  How many participants, do you think, could cite specific instances when President Trump recently disrespected women who were not attacking him?  Where is the acknowledgement of the nonchalant treatment of wives and women by iconic presidents such as JFK, and Bill Clinton?

If the marchers are promoting equality for women, his business organizations reflect great respect for women by hiring them, promoting them into management and paying them well; sounds like equality to me.  Why not ask women who work for the Trump organization how they feel about their misogynist boss?

Immigration:  First, Trump got trapped in the “Newspeak” of the way we use “immigrant.”  Many foreign nationals, from many countries, apply for visas, “green cards,” and citizenship every year.  Those who gain permanent residence or citizenship can rightly be called immigrants.  A great number of Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants.

The proponents of unlimited immigration and aligned journalists fought to not use the legal term “alien.”  They insisted on substituting “______-immigrant” until it became commonplace.  The problem is that non-hyphenated, legal immigrants heard these “_______-immigrants” being criticized and threatened, and felt included in that group; they took personally the anger, fear, and distain.

By verbally lumping the “_______-immigrants” together with immigrant citizens, they built support for their open-borders philosophy.  If we had stuck with “aliens,” and “foreign nationals,” the citizens would not have felt combined with them.

Exactly, what did he say about Mexicans?  Not just the clips, the whole statements. He said that among the illegal migrants were, drug smugglers, human traffickers, fugitive criminals, including murders, and rapists.  Is that true?  Yes.  Trump’s opponents extracted this description and implied that he meant ALL Mexicans fit these profiles.

Muslims:  Trump wants to limit and vet prospective refugees entering the US from Islamist countries tied to terrorism.  He wants Muslim communities to help identify and thwart jihadist terrorists.

Women who live in Muslim countries might not be sympathetic with the complaints of the marchers; certainly, they would or could not march on their capitals protesting.  Why not ask Muslim-American women what they would face if they went home to Arabia and Africa?  What would you face going there as a Christian?  Count your blessings that you live here in America.

There are no government proposals or actions right now that threaten women; he just took office Friday.  All the rhetoric is about what could happen; what rights they fear might be lost; what affronts they fear they may face.  Fear is a factor, but not fact

The one thing that stands out to me is concern about reversing Roe v. Wade.  I understand opposition to abortion challenges.  I support safe, informed, reasoned choice for every woman.  So, focus on defending that right or you risk people writing you off as generally disappointed with the election results, and righteously irritated at the challenges of being a woman.

The last point is this:  What do you propose, aside from replacing Donald Trump?  Many commentators have shrugged their shoulders about the purposes of the march because the marchers are not clear about what they are championing.  It was a shame that all the time, money, effort, and commitment it took to get people on the streets ended in a fog of vague purposes.

Donald Trump–The Matryoshka Candidate?

Matryoshka

I am amazed at the number, scope, and continuous flow of speculations about Donald Trump, as president-elect.  Now we have an American, billionaire, capitalist, accused of being a Russian sympathizer, and even a collaborator with Russia’s Putin to win the election.  Does that sound like the Russian version of “The Manchurian Candidate” to you?  (FYI:  a Matryoshka (ma-trosh-ka) is a hollow, Russian, nested, wooden doll with smaller and smaller dolls inside.)  I guess there are no limits on imagination, enmity, paranoia, malice, and disappointment.

Those who oppose Donald Trump, and those who are left bitter, dazed, angry, and confused by his election as President do not need to be rational in their relentless attacks on anything Trump.  Those accusing him of being soft on Russia, a Putin sycophant, and naïve about our enemies might take a minute to reflect on how silly that sounds.

Is it soft to sell some rich Russians overpriced condos and land in the US?  Is it sycophantic to use Putin to criticize political opponents as being weak?  Is it naïve to get the Russians to pay premium prices to have the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow?  Do I hear a no?

Until now, Mr. Trump’s interest in Russia has been limited to money, i.e. making money, not losing it, and not giving it away.  All his dealings with Russians have been real estate in the US, or visiting Moscow for a US-based beauty pageant.  Trump has never met Putin face-to-face, or made any deals with him.  Putin even cancelled a scheduled meeting with Trump during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.  Does that sound like love to you?  I believe Trump could continue to make money from Russians without being President, and without being friends with Putin; therefore, I do not think there is a sinister link. What else would he have to gain?

Some cite the friendly, respectful tone of comments and letters between the men.  A friendly demeanor is not the same as friendship; sometimes negotiations can benefit from pleasant diplomacy.

Others suggest that Putin sees Trump as weaker than Clinton.  Do we have some evidence that Trump is as passive as Obama has been in foreign matters, such as Crimea and Syria?  Or maybe evidence that Putin is afraid of Hillary after meeting her as Secretary of State?

Let us see what happens after January 20th.

This Blog Is Fake News

Not really, but language is our primary way to communicate.  “This statement is false,” is a classic example of recursive writing.  Sometimes I enjoy annoying, contradictory statements; these conundrums are good exercise for our understanding of language, our value judgements and our unchallenged intellectual sides.  Fake news is fiction dressed up in the trappings of fact.  Those who are fooled operate on faulty assumptions.  Snopes may not be enough to save us.

How important is what we believe?  We make choices every day based on information from others. For long stretches of our history, Americans expected, and demanded professional journalism; we challenged the news with research of our own; we relied on professional information gatherers and presenters; we cherished objectivity.  Walter Cronkite is the example that comes to mind.  He and his news team did not editorialize; they presented the facts they could verify plainly; even when the news was painful, such as the Kennedy assassination, he held his emotions in check, almost.

As the era of journalism fades in our collective awareness, we stumble into an epoch of opinion; the 24-hour news age Ted Turner invented is voracious; anything to fill the hours.  The demand grew for titillating, shocking, insidious, intentional, or just stupid, public lying; I guess there was not enough honest scandal, hyperbole, deception, libel, and defamation.

Now we find completely fabricated articles, meant to harm specific people or raise undue alarm among us. Free speech, or libel?  First Amendment rights, or vicious cowardice?  It seems we are reaping what we have sown.   We have become victims of our society’s lax attitude towards rigor and honor.  We have grown lazy and unwilling to check the things presented to us.

Frankly, I am glad.  Not for the bad things that follow such propaganda, but for the possible reawakening of doubt, curiosity, and inquiry.  Of all the innovations of the 20th century, the internet connection of millions of individuals is the most important, because it reveals and magnifies our human nature and limits. Our naivete allowed us to be fooled by sources we trusted. At last, we know we must check the sources and validity of our vast ocean of daily information.

Humans are suspicious by nature; evolution has left this trait engraved in our genes.  But we can be lulled into gullibility, and we have been.  The opinions of writers and editors may vary all along the spectrum of belief; perspectives may open many windows of human experience; but some grounded facts must be present to sort and distort.  Fake news is just written lies and gossip without honest attribution.

Whining the Election – Trumpled Aspirations

Over the 52 years and 13 presidential elections I have been eligible to vote, I have never seen such sore losers, and humble winners.

I am disappointed with the disparate responses to the results of the 2016 presidential election.  Smug expectations from pollsters and pundits seem to have set a trap for Hillary’s disciples, and set a stage for impetuous, righteous indignation.  Rejection, disputation, refutation, spoilsport language, protests, and denial among disgruntled Clinton supporters is “over-the-top,” and “unpresidented.”  “He is not my president,” spake Gloria Steinem, Wednesday morning.  (Ironically, in the past, she also said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”) 

Why have Mrs. Clinton’s avid proponents gone off the rails into the deep waters of denial and despair?

I believe the presumption that Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead over Donald Trump was their downfall.  Belief in optimistic statistics led to haughty attitudes and supercilious sneers on the faces of Hillary’s fans.  The extreme vanity of the oracles’ predictions led to nasty, braggadocios, arrogance.  When pride met gravity, the indignity of the pratfall magnified the embarrassment of hubris. The expectations of overwhelming victory were shredded, by the unexpected appearance at the polls of hordes of angry, underserved workers.  The ambush of the uncounted, disenfranchised citizens prevailed.

The carefully crafted deception of optimistic unemployment statistics did not fool the people who took discounted wages and lesser jobs over the last eight years.  These voters had no voice among Democrats who applauded the “champion of hope” for his rescue of the economy, and restoration of the American Dream.  They were not deceived by or grateful for their thinly disguised demotions and the smiling, dismissive, carefully worded denigrations spun by an accommodating media on behalf of the Obama administration.

The scales did not fall from their eyes, because no scales formed as they lost their jobs, houses, cars, and pride.  The Affordable Care Act did not replace the healthcare insurance they lost when their employer dropped their health coverage; when they lost their jobs, their hopes were dashed by the failure of the “marketplace” to make personal health insurance and their out-of-pocket costs affordable.  Instead, they found themselves ravaged by astronomical premiums, deductibles, copays, and incredible prescription prices.  Hospitals and pharmacies raised their nominal, private pay prices to offset the discounts demanded by insurance providers.  The uninsured were left with impossible choices.

Promise after promise lay fallow by the roadside.  Example after example of the USA borrowing trillions of dollars to pay for the rest of the world’s problems and defense festered, while Americans suffered from the Great Recession.  Pact after pact, treaty after treaty left us at disadvantage.  Military efforts left us looking weak, as we shrank from conflicts under cover of spin.  Former allies spat disparaging invectives on our leaders.

Did Hillary’s followers believe she could pull us out of the ditch of weakness and doubt created these past eight years?  Did her apostles think her baggage and prevarications would evaporate by inauguration?  No wonder they were blindsided when Trump won.

Ignorance is Blitz – Hillary Slams Donald

Let’s see now, a former US senator who knows how Congress passes tax laws, shouts unnecessarily (microphones notwithstanding), counting on the ignorance of her audience.

“Duplicitous” is the apt description of this fiery rhetoric she delivers, as if Trump has done something wrong, sinister, diabolic, & deplorable with his taxes, when she knows better.  But she knows it just works; why not stir up angry emotions?

The billion-dollar loss on Trump’s 1995 tax return is a real loss of money, & perfectly legal.  Using past business losses to offset future profits is a given & it makes perfect sense.  This law has been in effect, with periodic modifications, since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Every tax law must come from Congress & be signed by the president.  Every one of Donald Trump’s tax returns has been scrupulously audited & accepted by the IRS.  Anything they may have found that does not comply with the law, they adjusted to conform.  Nothing was allowed that was not legal; no law was broken.

Few people know the complexity of the tax laws congress passed.  But, most people know that they can deduct mortgage interest, medical expenses, and certain  other personal expenses.  No one I know forgoes those deductions, or refuses to accept tax credits.  I believe it is pernicious, irresponsible & wildly ignorant to brand approved behavior as evil & elitist

Business Losses

Businesses are not always profitable, (i.e. Sales – Costs = Profit/Loss).  Even if some years are bad, others must be good; otherwise the business fails.  The government allows business to look at their profits & losses over several years.  For example:

Joe & Mary Remodeling Co experiences a loss in 2008 during the financial & real estate crash.

2008Income was $ 150,000 and employees, suppliers, equipment, outgo was $250,000, a loss of $100,000. This included the business share of payroll taxes, (employers match the Social Security & Medicare taxes withheld from paychecks). Joe & Mary had to borrow $100,000 to keep their doors open.  They also had to borrow money for living expenses that year.

  • The $100,000 loss is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $100,000 +.

Things get worse in 2009; they cut expenses to $100,000, but income was only $75,000, a loss of $25,000, which they borrow.  They also borrow enough for personal living expense.

  • The $25,000 loss is added to the previous year’s $100,000 and $125,000 is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $125,000++

Things brighten in 2010; income is $125,000 with expenses of $75,000, a profit of $50,000.

The tax law allows them to use $50,000 of the “carried forward” losses from 2008 ($100,000) and 2009 ($25,000) to offset the 2010 profit.

  • $50,000 is subtracted for the $125,000 loss “carried forward.”
  • The remaining $75,000 of their losses is “carried forward.”

You can read the IRS instructions & explanations here:  https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p536.pdf

Bankruptcy & Unpaid Debts

Joe & Mary still owe the money they borrowed ($125,000 plus living expenses)

If Joe & Mary could not repay the debts, &  claimed bankruptcy, the amount of debt not paid is deducted from the amount of loss they could “carry forward.”  https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc431.html

Donald Trump’ s Billion-Dollar Loss in 1995

The amount of loss in the real estate business can include deductions for both cash expenses & “depreciation” of the buildings.  The tax law has strict rules on how much a person can “depreciate” all kinds of business assets.  If depreciation is part of the loss, & the building is later sold or repossessed, the depreciation is “recaptured,” which means added back into income & subtracted from the loss “carried forward.”

All in all, without more information, no one can tell what happened to that billion-dollar loss.  If Trump’s properties went into bankruptcy, those losses could have been cancelled by the rules for “recapture,” and debt reduction.

You can bet that the IRS audits every tax return Donald Trump files.  Someone should audit Hillary Clinton’s knowledge of tax law, & ethical portrayal.

 

Who Examines Presidents? – Whoever They Choose

 

Americans deserve and need to know the health of our President, and our Vice-President; but we do not.

That is right:  There is no impartial national medical team for our country’s top executives, or those who seek those positions.  Each president and vice-president picks their own doctors, and decides what medical information they disclose.  In fact, several presidents have withheld and even falsified their health conditions to the public.  Kind of scary to not know the health of the most powerful politician in the world.  And, a heartbeat away, it also makes knowing the health of the Vice-President more than a casual concern.

The 25th amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides emergency options, should the president be incapacitated.  It lays out protocols for the vice president to take over, temporarily, when the president is stricken.  Why rely on such extraordinary measures when we can anticipate, and avoid problems by knowing the health of our president?  We have the technology.

In a 1993 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association, former President Jimmy Carter advocated “the creation of a ‘nonpartisan group’ of physicians to help decide when a president’s illness affects his judgment.”   Apparently, doctors of previous presidents said presidential disability was a terrible problem.

Examples of hidden conditions:

Ronald Reagan

Reagan fought hard to dispel any rumors about his ill health, even after surviving an assassination attempt and colon cancer.  Some historians speculate the 40th president suffered from dementia  while he was in office.  He was publicly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease before his death in 2004.

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy presented the image of youthful vigor, but was in chronic pain due to back troubles from a World War II injury and constantly fatigued from Addison’s Disease (a chronic insufficiency of the adrenal glands).

Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR hid the severity of his polio until after his death in 1945. Roosevelt was barely able to stand as he governed through World War II.

Woodrow Wilson

Wilson concealed the fact that he had three minor strokes leading up to his run for the presidency.  During his second term, Wilson suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed and blinded on the left side of his body.  He couldn’t have a cabinet meeting for nine months.

His vice president, Thomas Marshall, refused to take over; Wilson could only manage his presidential duties with the help of his wife, Edith, who decided which issues deserved the president’s attention.

In this case voters were denied knowledge of conditions that seriously limited Wilson’s ability to govern.

William Henry Harrison

The 9th president of the United States died in his first month in office of “bilious pleurisy” which appeared as “inflamed lungs,” an “engorged liver,” and a “delirious mental state.”

We want to know that our top leaders are healthy enough to perform their vital roles.  As we approach the 2016 election, Americans are concerned that we have no reliable way to learn about the physical and mental health of the presidential candidates, and their running mates.  Right now, with no other mechanism in place, only the candidates can relieve our concerns.

What if Trump Wants to Lose? – Reality TV at its Finest

Interesting; both candidates for President are set for life, no matter who wins.  Aside from political ambitions, what other consequences can we think of?  Speaking engagements, books, endorsements; contributions to “selected” organizations, trust, foundations?

I think that is why Trump keeps upping the ante.  He is probably just as surprised as the pundits that he is the Republican candidate for president.  He is geared to parlay events that favor him into big wins.  But what if he does not want to win?  Could he be testing the limits of our national appetite for trash talk?

And, what about his campaign team?  In mid-August, Donald shrugs off the RNC “sheeps clothing” and resumes his “Wolf of Pennsylvania Avenue” regime.  An experienced manager tries to get him to smooth public dismay, and assume RNC campaign strategies; Trump demotes him and resumes fraying the tightrope to the White House.

Back to the show without protagonists; it must be amusing and frightening to watch our silliness.  All our military power, all our amazing creativity, dimmed by this imbroglio.

Timid, cowering politicians, showing everyone we have no cohesion, no clear direction, no acceptable answers to quell the “masses” who intuit the vacuum of power in our country.  Since 9/11 we have been “dazed and confused;” what should we do, whom should we trust; whom should we fear?

Flaying with “Shock and Awe;” useless, ignorant “boots on the ground” in places rich in resources, but impoverished in modernity.  We have shown our naiveté by superimposing our values and culture on 7th century tribal people.  Iraq was not even a country before Churchill drew a line around three feuding ethnic groups and assigned a titular government.  Afghanistan is the graveyard of many invading armies.

Donald Rumsfeld’s endorsement of Donald Trump is emblematic; the man who almost single-handedly emasculated Americas military, feebly blesses a novice in military affairs.  Sad, sad, sad.

I always thought of America in superlatives; strong, honest, forthright, steadfast, resourceful, courageous, and blessed come to mind.  Our moral infrastructure is in such disrepair, that we cannot stand for anything as a nation.  We have such weak bonds with each other, that we waste our energy and resources on things of little consequence in the world.  We blame each other for problems no one could create or solve.  We are frustrated with the impotence of government to do what it cannot.

  • Are we still recovering from the shock of a homeland attack?
  • Have our imaginations and fortitude been diverted to virtual reality?
  • Are we happy that we chose two weak candidates for President?
  • Are we that detached from reality?
  • Do we think this is just another show on TV?
  • Is our decline that obvious to the rest of the world?
  • Are Russia and China taking advantage of our frazzled reticence?
  • Where are the serious leaders we need?

We need citizens to accept individual responsibility and to participate in the things that matter – the true threats and vital problems; not bathrooms and weddings.

As in the TV series House of Cards, the voters are not in charge of anything. If we remain the audience for a reality TV Show, it should be called Decline.  You are never fired; in fact, you are stuck in a job you cannot afford to lose.  We could wake up like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis; no control over, and less understanding of what is happening to us.

Saul Alinsky was an important personal mentor to Hillary; his books are modern, grass roots, activist versions of Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Karl Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party.  Listen to the rhetoric of semi-incumbent,Hillary Clinton, and parse out the words that are not in Rules for Radicals.  She does not have any answers that were not available to another Alinsky apostle, Barack Obama; how can anyone believe she can do what he could not?  Not that Trump has any silver bullets either; but voting does not have to be rational; and so it is not.

Kizr Khan waved the Constitution on TV, but he must not have read the powers of the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Had he read and understood Articles I, II, and III, he would know that all these sweeping promises candidates make are not within the powers vested in the Presidency.  If they could have, they would have.  Obama has stretched every possible executive power; what can any president do without Congress and the rest of the nation?  Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

But I digress.  Just think; what if what Donald Trump never intended to become President. It has cost Donald Trump virtually nothing to become a famous world figure and a national icon.  He definitely, upset the powers-that-be in the RNC.  He awakened an army of citizens who have suffered too long from economic and government impoverishment.  Even if the presidency goes to the second most unpopular, and widely distrusted candidate, both she and Trump are set for life.

 

 

 

$20 million to Destroy $11 million of ISIS Trucks and Oil?

This weekend, U.S.-led coalition aircraft destroyed an estimated $11 million worth of oil and trucks over the weekend in the largest single airstrike this year against the Islamic State’s black market oil trade in Syria.

“You’re going to have multiple effects from this one strike,” Air Force Lt. Gen, Jeffrey Harrigian, commander in the Middle East, said Tuesday. “We’ll have to see what this does to their ability to generate fighters.”

Waves of aircraft destroyed 83 oil tankers sitting in the open in Sunday’s attack.

The attacks were ordered after a pilot spotted some vehicles gathering in Deir ez-Zor province, a key oil-producing region in Syria controlled by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The coalition command sent a surveillance aircraft over the area. The command then quickly directed A-10 attack planes, F-16s and two coalition aircraft, which together launched more than 80 weapons, including bombing and strafing runs, at the vehicles.”

Air-to-ground missiles, A-10’s, F-16’s, drones, satellites, technicians, pilots, all cost money – a lot of money.  One first generation Hellfire missile costs about $100,000; an F-16 costs $165 million each, plus $30,000 per hour to fly; drones cost $100,000+ to build and take a large infrastructure to operate.

I am not saying that we should not use our resources to take out the enemy, just quit warning them ahead of time and hold off on the bragging.  If all we are doing is destroying trucks, it may cost us as much as it costs them.  And are these people our enemies? Do we always fire a few warning shots so the experienced operators and soldiers can escape? Is this some weird video game war? Yes, I am serious:

“In the initial Tidal Wave II strikes last year, the coalition dropped leaflets on oil tankers before launching attacks, encouraging the drivers to flee their vehicles.

New military rules don’t require leaflets to be dropped, but pilots fire warning shots, typically consisting of bombs or rockets that are not aimed directly at the convoy.

“We’ll do that … to give them a chance to run,” Harrigian said.”  Jim Michaels – USA Today

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/08/09/islamic-state-oil-trucks-destroyed-massive-strike/88459864/

Sure, we can outspend ISIS; their $2 billion annual budget is peanuts compared the money we are prepared to spend to put them out of business.  But are we really serious about defeating the enemy?

American Royalty – Power Without Heart

 

The 2016 presidential campaign harkens back to the earliest years of our nation.  Democracy, Republic, Three Branches of Government, Bicameral Legislature, By The People, Checks and Balances were new ideas.  Did everyone agree?  Not in the slightest.  And they had not invented political correctness in the middle of the 18th century.

No; instead, anonymous, pamphlets of slanderous accusations and invectives, swirled like blizzards across the newly formed United States of America.  The reins of power were not certain or predictable. Contenders for office came from all walks of life with no “party” to promote them.

The evolution of America’s two major political parties took some time, but those in power were hardly poor or neutral; power is the ultimate opioid.  Despite conflicts, Democrats and Republicans play the same games; they expect to win and lose from time to time, but both sides know the rules of placating the masses by making them think they have a voice in what goes on.

Until recently, the pretense of two radically separate political bodies survived, and thrived.  Now, two is not enough, talk is not enough, rhetoric is not enough.  Americans are tired of the same old crap: “They” are bad, “We” are good.  We will fix (what they broke, again).  They found out that there is just one old machine with two faces; they do not want it anymore.

The 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mortgage fiascos, the collapse of investment banks, the explosion of college costs and debts, the Great Recession, the expansion of global terrorism, have shaken our confidence in America, in ourselves, and in our institutions.

We have lost the super in superpower.  Our military is so weak, we have to send the same soldiers back into combat again and again until they break; we spend millions of dollars on a drone strike to kill a dozen enemy soldiers so we can avoid American casualties.  The all-professional military means that average citizens are not involved; we do not feel like we are really at war.  What would make us think that?

The same old promises will not work on brand new problems any better than they did on the old problems.  Conspiracies seem to explain current events better than the lame “official” excuses and falsehoods WikiLeaks keeps uncovering.  And just maybe the truth is not that far off.

We have lost the attention span to take politicians seriously.  Incumbents no longer offer us advantages. Hence the wave of populism, barely dodged by the Democrats secret machine, and now staring the Republicans in the face.  The political czars are going to any length, including crossing over to the other side to avoid losing control of the constituencies they have cultivated.

The trouble is, the new constituencies are awakened, vocal, mobilized, and revolting against Big Brother.  They want purpose, they want independence, they want liberty, and at least a passing chance in their pursuit of happiness.

It looks like the machine, with all its money, influence, propaganda, connections, and experience may win again this time.  I am unhappy that my country, with all its advantages, cannot cultivate enough honorable leaders to field worthy candidates for president, and remain loyal when the voters speak.

The DNC Chose Krizr Khan Very Carefully – A Sad Abuse of a Gold Star

As a Vietnam veteran, I honor Captain Khan’s valiant service.  I too was a Captain serving in a foreign war.  My brother spent two tours in Vietnam.  My wife’s 19-year-old brother died in Tet 1968.  I guess we were a Gold Star family too.

I am not in favor of the family or the opposing political candidates using his death as a political platform.  This is a dark use of an honorable man’s tragedy.  Using a Gold Star as a shield for partisan purposes is sad, and verges on disgrace.

I have visited the resting place of my fallen comrades in Arlington Cemetery, I have read and touched the names of people from my life engraved on the vast, black, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall; I have read and support the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights; I support the First Amendment which defends free speech, even when used for such ignoble purposes.

Background:

Both Krizr and Ghazala Khan were born and brought up in Pakistan, he received his bachelor of law degree from Punjab University Law College in Lahore, Pakistan in 1974.  Ghazala taught Persian at a Pakistani college.

Soon after getting his law degree, they moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; their two elder sons, Shaharyar and Humayun, were born there.

There is an unexplained gap in Mr. Khan’s work history; there was no indication on his law firm website of what Mr. Khan did, or where he worked the six years from 1974 to 1980.  Then the family moved to Boston, straight into Harvard Law School.

In 1982, Mr. Khan received his masters of law degree from Harvard.  The family then moved to Maryland; it is not clear where he worked the sixteen years from 1982 to 1998.

1998 to 2007, Krizr managed the Litigation Technology Services group at the international law firm of Hogan & Hartson, Washington, DC, including European and Asian offices.

From 2007 to 2010 he was Director of Law Technology & Electronic Discovery at a major global law firm based in New York.

(Note:  This history seems to conflict with the statement from his speech, “Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed.”  Q:  Why would he put that glib cliche in his speech, when it seems so unlikely to be true?)

The oldest son, Shaharyar, was a top student at the University of Virginia, where he got his PhD in Neuroscience.  He co-founded a biotechnology company, Gencia Corporation, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he serves as Chief Science Officer.  His youngest brother, Omer, currently works at Gencia as a research specialist.  Mr. Khan now works as a legal consultant in Charlottesville, Va.

The second son, Humayun Khan, took ROTC while attending the University of Virginia, and received his commission in the US Army upon graduation in 2000.  In 2004, Humayun died from a suicide car bomb explosion at the gates to the base in Baqubah, Iraq.

Q:  Who killed him?

A:  His enemiesour enemies; the enemies we do not want here in the US.

Perspectives:

  • 3.3 million Muslim immigrants equal .9% of the US population. (365 million)
  • About 6,000 Muslims have served in our military since 9/11, (.27% of the 2.2 million US Military)
  • A total of 14 Muslim US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, (.31% of the 4,424 total deaths)

The Speech:

With this background, here is Mr. Krizr Khan’s DNC speech:

“Tonight we are honoured to stand here as parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims – with undivided loyalty to our country.

Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy; that with hard work and goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.

We are blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.

Our son, Humayun, had dreams too, of being a military lawyer, but he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America’.

If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities; women; judges; even his own party leadership. 

He vows to build walls, and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future.

Let me ask you: have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. [he pulls it out] In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’.

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America.

You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

We cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing division. We are stronger together. And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our President.

In conclusion, I ask every patriot American, all Muslim immigrants, and all immigrants to not take this election lightly.

This is a historic election, and I request to honour the sacrifice of my son – and on election day, take the time to get out and vote.

And vote for the healer. vote for the strongest, most qualified candidate, Hillary Clinton, not the divider. God bless you, thank you.”

Summary:

Statistics certainly do not diminish or relieve the terrible pain of losing a son, or a brother, or any loved one.  Clearly, Humayun was a hero.  But he was a rare example of Muslim participation in our military

The DNC was brilliant in choosing one of the 14 Muslim Gold Star families to represent loyal, patriotic Muslims.  Unfortunately, the presentation implies a larger number of such families, and a larger Muslim participation in our nation’s defense.

It is clear, though, that Mr. Khan, and Mr. Trump have never met; both are assailing each other from the parapets of fixed partisan positions, based in rhetoric and hearsay.

It is sad that a Gold Star is being abused for political leverage.

Trump Could Win the “Immigration” Wars – Banish ”Newspeak”

Donald Trump speaks the language of the people, as he knows it.  When he talks about immigration policy, he has fallen into the “Newspeak” trap set by the media.  He could escape this trap and turn it on his enemies.

By now, no one doubts that both Trump and Clinton have real, and growingly serious “enemies.”  Some have even asked, “What happens if a party’s candidate dies before the election?”

One set of people upset with Trump are immigrants.  The problem with the word “immigrant” is, we need to use more precise language.  We need to say whether we mean “citizens with strong identification with immigrant forebears and culture,” or”non-citizens?”

See how easy could that be?

Americans are almost all descendants of immigrants, even though we are not immigrants ourselves.  A person who has become a naturalized citizen may describe themselves as an “immigrant” to refer to their country of origin, but they are citizens.

Even though they live here, foreign nationals (legal language: “aliens”) who have not gone through the naturalization process are not citizens.  They may still stay here as permanent residents once they apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and are approved. *

Political correctness has eroded the use of the word used by most governments around the world: alien.  “Some people” objected to the proper word “alien” and began to use euphemisms to disguise the true status of non-citizens, and aggravate citizens who immigrated legally, or who have a strong immigrant identification, such as “Latino, Latina.”   http://www.illegalaliens.us/euphemisms.htm)

If Trump wants to shock the sensibilities of the PC crowd, why not use the right words:

Illegal Alien
Also known as an “Undocumented Alien,” is an alien who has entered the United States illegally and is deportable if apprehended, or an alien who entered the United States legally but who has fallen “out of status” and is deportable.

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/immigration-terms-and-definitions-involving-aliens

He can make himself clear and unassailable by using the proper language when discussing immigration policy.

Oh, by the way, why not publish our current immigration policy so we can ask, “what part of the law don’t you understand?  What parts of the law do you intend to change?”

http://www.immigralaw.com/english/immigrationquotas.html

 

Populists Remodel, Instead of Making New Parties

“Americans are not only strongly dissatisfied with the state of the economy and the direction in which the country is headed, but with government efforts to improve them. As the Pew Research Center’s analysis of exit poll data (2010) concluded, “the outcome of this year’s election represented a repudiation of the political status quo…. Fully 74% said they were either angry or dissatisfied with the federal government, and 73% disapproved of the job Congress is doing.”

http://www.pewresearch.org/2010/12/14/how-a-different-america-responded-to-the-great-depression/

Like the two poles of a magnet, anger and dissatisfaction manifested in favor of a clearly popular Bernie Sanders movement on the left, and more clearly in the ascendancy of Donald Trump on the right.

The Democrats

Bernie Sanders attracted a large plurality of younger citizens to socialist ideas for solving perceived failures of government.  The Obama administration did nothing to ameliorate the impact of staggering loan burdens on college students; the Affordable Care Act not only failed to manage healthcare needs, it aggravated the problems of access and affordability.

Super delegates, and the strident support of the DNC establishment saved Hillary Clinton’s primary candidacy from an embarrassing drubbing by the populists.  Nonetheless, the Democrats had to shift their platform to the left to avoid losing the new voters Bernie Sanders attracted.  The party apparatchiks felt their grip on power slipping, and quickly adjusted to retain control.  Witness the remodeled Democratic Party

The Republicans

The Republican powers-that-be were not so lucky; by denying, resisting and eschewing, they lost control of the party to a populist candidate beyond their influence.  Donald Trump, by design or blind luck, tapped into the anger and frustration of a tsunami of new and dormant voters on the right. Instead of building a new third party, ala Ross Perot, Trump remodeled the Republican Party.  This massive wave of constituents was so strong that sixteen traditional candidates succumbed to mild taunting and criticism in televised debates, and strong turnouts in the primaries.

The barrage of criticism from both parties, the withdrawal of political support by RNC powerhouses, and the withholding of financial support by big-time contributors could not stop a political neophyte from becoming the Republican candidate on a tiny fraction of the money spent against him.  The Republican Party has been transformed into a conservative, populist majority; sour grapes, snubs, and disownment remain ineffective on the new dynamics of the party.

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,” is our new national creed.

“Equality” – An Evil Definition

What qualities are we trying to “E?”  Who decides “equal?”  How does anyone improve the qualities of another person?

When a political party adds a word to their platform, shouldn’t they define it?  Does anyone believe our human race was advanced and improved by denying the qualities that surpassed “normal” or “average?”

I cannot seem to find anyone anywhere who can or will say exactly what they mean by “equal,” or how “equality” will be achieved.

If fostering equality means reducing those who excel by taxation or regulation, what will that accomplish for the “unequals?”

What politicians are ready to point at individual citizens and say, “You are unequal, you are above equal, you are exactly equal.”?

Am I supposed to be so ignorant that I do not interpret this criminalization of success as a naked call for federal government stripping resources from those with money to finance distributions of resources to those who are “below equal.”?  Do I want to live in a communist society where everything is artificial, and nothing works?  No.

Millions of people have risked life and limb to get to the place where they are unencumbered by lack of opportunity – the USA.  They are here to improve their chances for a better life for themselves and their children.  They see that here they have a chance that their efforts will pay off.  Do they require a perfect environment?  Do they insist that the government remove the obstacles to their accomplishments?  No.

Oh, and by the way, where is the campaign for GLOBAL equality?  (Silence)  Hmmm, so giving up what we have that exceeds what other people have in other parts of the world is different.  Hypocritical at best.

Kurt Vonnegut was prescient in a short story he wrote in 1961, (just as George Orwell was in 1944 when he published “Animal Farm.”)

Read what he wrote.

 <HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr  1961

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal.  They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.  Nobody was smarter than anybody else.  Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.  All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though.  April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime.  And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts.  And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear.  He was required by law to wear it at all times.  It was tuned to a government transmitter.  Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television.  There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head.  His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh” said George.

“That dance-it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel a little envious.

“All the things they think up.”  “Um,” said George.

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers.

“If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well-maybe make ’em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better than I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck.

“Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.”

“You been so tired lately-kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean-you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, ” then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”  If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right-” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody.

“Excuse me-” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.  And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake. George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune.

“My God-” said George, “that must be Harrison!”  The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head. When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood – in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people.

“Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.  She was blindingly beautiful.

“Now-” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too.

“Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well. They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.

It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again.

“You been crying” he said to Hazel.

“Yup,” she said.  “What about?” he said.

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee-” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”>

 

“Harrison Bergeron” is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

The Revolution Is Here – Take It To Heart

In every revolution, the “intelligentsia,”are swept aside.  They represent an entrenched notion of superiority and upper class that would keep change within their purview for ever. They call anyone who is not aligned with them “ignorant.”

But Americans have developed a different model of “knowing” called “trending.”

Ignorance is what?  What does a person have to “know” to rise above ignorance? Over the past six decades, we Americans have gradually diluted and “re-purposed”public education to reveal a new role for our schools:  Day Care and fail-proof graduation.

BTW:  What we don’t know, we can, like, Google, right?  Like, the internet is a great source, right?  And, like, almost better than rumors.  And Twitter, hey.  Right?  It is not only right; it is right now!  Who needs to be smart when they have smart PHONES;)

Each generation allowed to drift away from personal responsibility and thoughtful challenge dims our future, and insults our past.  Then the child become the parent, their children become parents, ad nauseum.  There is a saying, “Wisdom comes with age.”  But apparently, sometimes, age comes alone.

What has come of the devaluation of deep education, and elimination of critical thinking/learning skills?  Is it fair to castigate an electorate that has been hoodwinked into accepting whatever their equally educated associates and self-proclaimed leaders tell them?

What do we expect from uber-indulged offspring, un-chaffed by the requirements of self-reliance?  Why should we be surprised when 4th generation union laborers cry out in pain when their family traditions leave them without a clue or a paycheck?

We find ourselves in 2016, after wrenching damage to our smug image of ourselves as Americans with unlimited potential, who need only show up to garner success.  The wounds inflicted by 9/11 are still with us after 15 years of missteps in response.  We have tried to deny the damage; we have launched counterattacks on the phantoms of suicide using oceans of borrowed money to fund distant wars with professional warriors; we have salved our pain with money borrowed to buy homes and the trappings of wealth against a mirage of future prosperity; we drowned in the aftermath of deluded excess; we barely made our way back to the shores of reason and a semblance of recovery.

Now, we use deceitful yardsticks to measure our return to Camelot.  Empty words like “employment” when a person finally finds a job at 60% of their former pay.

We make false implications like “college education” when a barely literate and numerate high school “graduate” borrows the price of a new home to learn to read, write, and use a computer; then, the search for work that will pay the student loans, while the “college graduate,” either stays in the family basement, or shares desperate apartment space with like-indentured contemporaries.

When I say “we,” I mean our shackled culture.  We have been fooled into believing what we are told, minding our “political correctness,” and allowing mobs to control our justice system when, the results do not satisfy them.  We have allowed loud minorities of no more than 3-5% of our population to direct our legislatures and judiciaries to give them control and sanctions over the rest of our society.  We have succumbed to the notion that Americans have to allow others to flaunt our laws, treaties, and alliances because we should never stand firm, confront evil, or fight dirty.

The idealized America of the past was pretty hard-nosed, and seldom a patsy for, “that’s not NICE.”  Our heroes were tough guys who would not stand for threats or false promises.  Somehow we believe we are still tough when we are just the opposite.

The social organizers, the media and professional politicians have informally colluded to keep Americans in their recliners, consumers of what they conjure, passive observers of life in America.

But we all have our limits, and when those limits are breached, we get up and fight the bullies who have tried to keep us under control with their well-honed rules.  Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are appealing to the Americans who have suffered and who see not relief, but more suffering.  They are mad as hell, and they are not going to take it anymore.

Even if these gladiators are martyred by “the System,” they have awakened those who have let things go too long.  These revolutionaries will not accept sophisticated “ideas” or convoluted promises; they want palpable relief.  They want to push the buttons, and pull the levers, and see results that make a difference.

Problems Equal Power – Solutions Subtract

Have you noticed how much time and blather are lavished on inventing and enlarging problems, blaming, and shaming the “other” for causing, maintaining, expanding and taking advantage of problems?  Have you paid attention to how little or no time is invested in compassionate, cooperative, thoughtful, creative ideas?  Have you noticed how little time is spent pursuing sometimes simple obvious solutions, and strategies to reduce divisiveness, or resolve negative issues?

That is because “Problems = Power” in politics – especially perpetual & perpetuated problems.

What is a problem?  Think about it – a problem is a perception, a belief, a concept, an idea, a puzzle, a construct that proposes that an obstacle, a burden, a threat, or a harmful condition exists for a person or group of people.

The word “problem” also implies that a “solution” or “answer” or “proof” is available.

If you want political power:

  • Define a “problem” and declare a solution is available.
  • Proclaim yourself the champion of a particular social, financial, cultural pain for which you have the answer.
  • Stand up as the leader who will right a present, past, or future wrong.
  • Convince others that you are a spearhead who will break the hold of nefarious conspiracies on the throats of the weak, disadvantaged, and marginalized.

The basic strategy appears to be:

  • Maintain and emphasize the “problem” to your intended constituency.
  • Complain publicly, and produce anecdotal, sometimes rare examples of the “problem,” victims, or damage.
  • Blame someone else for creating, expanding; and perpetuating the “problem.”
  • Berate anyone who could or could have, should or should have solved the “problem.”
  • Propose a law so someone else has to stop it, fix it, or pay for it.
  • Promise that, if elected, you will fight it, expose it, or make it “fair.”
  • Make emotional accusations that others intentionally cause the “problem” for their benefit.
  • Stir up anger and hatred for groups, classes, or nations accused of causing, imposing, or withholding solutions for the “problem.”

But do not, under any circumstances, actually do anything to solve the problem systemically because, when you solve the problem, you lose the power created by the problem.  (that is, if there really is/was /were a problem.)

Some statements sound like problems, but they are really just statements.  For example, I remember hearing:

  • “The poor will always be with us.”
  • “How much better is it to acquire wisdom than gold! and to acquire understanding is worthmore than silver!”
  • “Thethings you own end up owning you.”

Other “problems” are invented and protected, such as the “problem” of requiring a photo ID.

First, has anyone, besides me, ever been in another country?  Everyone, citizens, residents, & visitors must have “papers” such as passports, or else you go to jail or get deported, period.  Often, proof of birth is not on record, but the governments know this and have methods of dealing with it.  Guess what? – people get and keep IDs.

Second, we live in a culture of ubiquitous identity verification requirements.  How does anyone live in the USA without government issued ID?  We need ID’s to receive, record, do, buy, or operate anything worth receiving, recording, doing, buying, or operating.  Here are some examples:

  • Paychecks (job application & check cashing)
  • Social security checks (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Credit purchases
  • Food Stamps (benefit application & purchasing)
  • Unemployment (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Welfare (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Home & auto titles
  • Insurance
  • Marriage
  • Birth
  • Divorce
  • Buying alcohol
  • Driving
  • Attending school
  • Getting medical care
  • Internet purchases
  • Electricity
  • Sports events
  • Buying stupid stuff advertised on TV for $19.95, (but wait – order now &..)
  • And much, much more

Oh, I forgot, with everyone taking “selfies” these days, that means they have a smartphone, and the related bills.  They are also creating photo IDs on the internet.  So who is left?  The Disabled, the Aged, the Homeless, the Poor?

Why haven’t their family, or friends, or social workers, or political party members taken them to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Post Office, or wherever they need to go to get an ID?  The fact that the photo will be atrocious should not daunt you.  The ultimate ID is a US passport, good anywhere in the world.  Next is a driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID from the state.

Obviously, the first step is a census, a list of people who do not have an ID.  The opponents of having an ID seem to know who they are; so prove it; produce the list.  Then solve the problem instead of complaining.

Third, where photos are required, couldn’t we just have cameras, or smartphones to take pictures of people who have none (duh)?  For example, have digital cameras to take photos of any who wants to vote, but has no ID.  Email the picture, name, address, and phone number to a secure central server.  If there ever is a problem or doubt, you have the data to answer any questions. I’ll bet the pictures would come out better than the Department of Public Safety, or Department of Motor Vehicles, or, heaven forbid, Department of Corrections.  This data could also be used to create a photo ID, once verified.

Fourth, isn’t getting a photo ID something that lasts once you get one, or only requires renewal every few years?  If you average out the yearly cost of having a photo ID, it should be affordable (maybe $5-10 per year, at most).

I mean, if you knew Aunt Betty did not have a photo ID, couldn’t you help her get one as a 50th birthday present?  Also, if a political party wanted supporters to vote, couldn’t they spend some small fraction of the millions of dollars they raise to get them ID’s?  Naahh!  Just let the problem ride, and keep the power so you can accuse, complain, and litigate again next year.  Oh, and take the “problem” to the Supreme Court to make it permanent.

But, this is just one example.  Let’s think about how politicians develop strategies around problems.  What is missing, or mislaid?

  1. Avoid Problem Analysis – Strategy: generalize, exaggerate, fabricate, and avoid any details and real research.

Ask yourself, would the protestations of ANY of the current candidates for President solve ANY of the serious pains Americans are suffering?  All I have heard are mission statements, results promises, and slogans.  Oh, I forgot, blame, & snide ad hominem bombs hurled like fireworks into the air, never to land; entertaining, reinforcing, & useless.

  1. Avoid Solution Analysis – Strategy: poor math, blur the subject, blame obstacles, avoid saying who would really pay.

Has anyone heard of a workable tax/spend plan that would actually produce the stated result, in practice?  It must be out of fashion to think things through; for example, “Tax the Rich” probably won’t work, when we wiggle the definition of “rich,” and forget that people do not stand still for painful government actions.  They either stop the taxable behavior, or substitute non-taxable behavior, or cheat.  “Do Not Tax the Poor” is a problem when the definition of “poor” is feeble, and government spending exceeds the resources of everyone.

  1. Avoid Distinctions – Strategy: collapse specific meanings into general terms, confuse demographic groups by using the same words to describe different groups.

The most prominent example of this is the intentional, improper use of the word “immigrant.”  “Immigrant” means a person who is a citizen of another country living in the USA legally by registration (aka – Green Card), or through naturalization to become a citizen of the USA.

That is all.   The term is specific and narrow in its legal definition; it absolutely excludes “unregistered aliens,” “foreign nationals,” “migrants” and so called, “illegal immigrants,” and “undocumented workers.”  All of those terms refer to unregistered non-citizens living here in violation or our immigration laws.  But, clever politicians, journalists, and advocates substitute the word “immigrant” for people who are not citizens.

The effect of this is to rile up immigrants, who are Americans, and make it sound like Americans hate immigrants.  Use the right words and it is clear that Americans love immigrants; we ARE immigrants, or descendants of immigrants.  We oppose people violating our immigration laws.

It is deceitful, and “newspeak” to use euphemisms or the word “immigrant” with obfuscating adjectives to imply that illegal aliens are really just citizens who kind of sort of haven’t taken care of a few annoying, paperwork details, so it is okay for them to come here and stay as long as they want because they really are Americans; aren’t they?

All in all, we can be tricked into supporting causes and politicians by perceiving “problems” as reality.  Sure, there are real problems, like homelessness, nuclear threats, infrastructure neglect, terrorism, inadequate public education, business and government corruption, to name a few.

But “inequality,” and “poverty” will always exist because people are different and “unequal” in many ways.

Should we regard exceptional students, athletes, scientists, artists, inventors, leaders, entrepreneurs, other geniuses as affronts to those who are not exceptional?  Should we slow down the hard workers and ambitious business owners to make things more “equal?”

Should we fault those who adapt to the world the way it is, instead of insisting that the past return for those who are stuck there?  Should we respond to the politicians who accuse government for making terrible agreements with other countries, or for not meeting all of our personal needs?  Is there something not great about America the way it is?

Make no mistake, America is the best place in the world for people who treasure liberty, personal freedom to live and work wherever we want, love who we want, go where we want, strive for our dreams, and as citizens vote how we want.

Go the Middle East, or Asia, or Africa, or Central America to see how the “other half” lives, and you will kiss the ground when you get back home to the United States of America.

 

 

Mental Health Parity – Who Will Make It So?

Sure, Obamacare was supposed to raise the level of care for mental health to the level of physical health.  Sure, President Obama declared a $500 million increase in federal spending for mental health issues.  And……..?   That equals $1.56 per capita.  The states are decreasing their spending on mental health faster than that every year.

Those who venerate Ronald Reagan’s presidency may not have noticed that, once he converted federal health care into block grants to the states, the spending and resources for mental health collapsed to a feeble level.  As the mental health facilities closed, the new prisons opened, and the homeless population mushroomed.  Some experts estimate that 29% of the homeless have severe mental illness.  Department of Justice studies show that 45-65% of local, state, and federal prisoners have severe mental illness; about 1/3 receive treatment.  In other words, the justice system is in charge of mental health care in America.  A police officer is the most likely person to interact with the seriously disturbed citizen on our streets.  Then the most likely outcome would be to be incarcerated in a de facto asylum, or relegated to the streets.

I do not have the answers, but denial will not make things better.  Maybe it would better to convert our prisons into hospitals, and our prison guards into psychiatric nurses.  The last figure I heard was about $39,000 per inmate per year (about $107/day) for incarceration.  Then most of those released have not been treated for mental illnesses.  What do you think the chances are that they will have other episodes that might put them back in prison?

No one can guarantee that treatment would reduce recidivism; no statistics exist to test that theory.  All I know is that people I know do very well, when they take their meds.

So, here is the question every candidate for federal office: “It seems that all the candidates agree that mental illness has played a prominent role in the mass shootings around the US.  How well do you think the federal and state governments are managing mental healthcare in prisons, among the homeless, and the public?  What do you think they should do to really meet the needs?”